Since Barbara McNulty founded her school in 1971, it has expanded to 18 state-spanning locations where beginning and advanced students learn the ins and outs of Irish dancing. McNulty herself is certified to teach Irish step solo, figure, and ceili dancing, and instructors lead a host of solo and team lessons to accommodate different ages or experience levels.
Mary Mayer's career in Irish dancing started when she took her first lessons in Ireland while staying with her grandmother in the early '70s. She loved it so much that when she returned to Chicago, she—as well as her brother John—began taking lessons at a local Irish-dance school, where they danced with such people as Lord of the Dance creator Michael Flatley. Both Mary and John eventually starting placing at regional and national championships.
In 1980, they founded the Mayer School of Irish Dancing. It began in a basement with only five students—two of who were their younger brother and sister, Paul and Julie Mayer. These two followed in their older siblings' footsteps by placing in championships and even landing roles in Road to Perdition. Paul trained actress Jennifer Jason Leigh and danced with her in the film. Julie also trained many actors and performed alongside Paul Newman and Daniel Craig.
Though John has since retired, Mary continues to teach classes six days a week in Villa Park and Galena. Paul and Julie man two of the school's additional locations, which now span four states. Their students have placed in regional and national championships. Some have even traveled to Ireland to put their skills on display at the All-Ireland Championship and see if any snakes have found their way back yet.